- GBP edges higher as parliament backs Article 50 extension
- Oil prices flat
- SEC sues Volkswagen over emissions scandal
- New home prices in China slow down dramatically
The British Pound edged up on Friday in Asia after lawmakers approved a motion setting out the option to ask the European Union (EU) for a short delay if parliament can agree on a Brexit deal by March 20, or a longer delay if no deal can be agreed in time. Sterling was mostly steady after the motion was passed late on Thursday. The GBP/USD pair last traded at 1.3246 by 11:12 PM ET (03:12 GMT) on Friday, up 0.05%.
Earlier this week, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal suffered a second defeat in Parliament. A new vote on her twice-rejected deal is likely next week, according to various media reports. Lawmakers must now decide whether to back a deal they feel does not offer a clean break from the EU, or reject it and accept that Brexit could be watered down or even thwarted by a long delay.
Meanwhile, the USD/JPY pair edged down 0.1% to 111.62 following the Bank of Japan’s (BoJ) decision to keep its short-term interest rate target at minus 0.1% as expected. The central bank maintained the 10-year JGB yield target around 0%, also in line with expectation.
Oil prices were near flat on Friday in Asia after rising to near four-month highs the previous day. US Crude Oil WTI Futures was up 0.01% at $58.63 by 10:37 PM ET (02:37 GMT). International Brent Oil Futures edged up 0.1% to $67.27. Traders’ attention now turns to the International Energy Agency (IEA) for its monthly publication due later today, with analysts expecting it to underline concerns on oil demand.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission sued Volkswagen AG and its former chief executive Martin Winterkorn over the German automaker's diesel emissions scandal late Thursday, accusing the company of perpetrating a "massive fraud" on US investors. The SEC said in its complaint filed in San Francisco that from April 2014 to May 2015, Volkswagen issued more than $13 billion in bonds and asset-backed securities in US markets at a time when senior executives knew that more than 50,000 US diesel vehicles grossly exceeded legal vehicle emissions limits.
Tesla Inc unveiled its Model Y electric sports utility vehicle on Thursday evening in California, promising a much-awaited crossover that will face competition from European car makers rolling out their own electric rivals. Chief Executive Elon Musk said the compact SUV, built on the same platform as the Model 3, would first debut in a long-range version with a range of 300 miles priced at about $47,000. A standard version, to be available sometime in 2021, would cost about $39,000, he said.
The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits increased more than expected last week, suggesting the labour market was slowing, but probably not to the extent implied by a near-stall in job growth in February. While other data on Thursday showed import prices rising by the most in nine months in February, the trend in imported inflation remained weak. Import prices dropped on a year-on-year basis for a third straight month in February.
News on the housing market remained downbeat, with new home sales falling more than expected in January. The stream of data remains broadly supportive of the Federal Reserve's pledge to be "patient" before raising interest rates further this year. Sales of new US single-family homes fell more than expected in January, suggesting the housing market weakness persisted early in the first quarter, despite a moderation in mortgage rates.
The Commerce Department said on Thursday new home sales declined 6.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 607,000 units. December's sales pace was revised higher to 652,000 units from the previously reported 621,000 units. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast new home sales, which account for about 11% of housing market sales, slipping 0.6% to a pace of 620,000 units in January.
Japan's financial watchdog will conduct stress tests on regional banks around mid-year and review rules to prod them to speed up efforts to boost profitability, a government official with direct knowledge of the matter said on Friday. The move comes in the wake of growing concern among policymakers over the plight of regional banks, which have seen profits hit by years of ultra-low interest rates and an exodus of borrowers moving to bigger cities as the population shrinks.
Under current regulation aimed at pre-empting bank failures, the Financial Services Agency (FSA) focuses on whether commercial banks meet minimum capital adequacy ratios and past data in determining whether they are deemed financially viable. Japan's Nikkei newspaper reported on Friday that the FSA will review such guidelines to focus more on the future business outlook of the banks and whether their profitability is resilient to chronic pressure such as low rates and an aging population.
New home prices in China grew at their slowest pace in 10 months in February in sign of slackening demand as the economy cools further, leaving authorities walking a tight rope between loosening some existing curbs and flushing out speculators. Consumer and business confidence has slipped over recent quarters in the wake of heightened economic uncertainty and a yet-unresolved Sino-US trade dispute, discouraging residential investment.
Average new home prices in China's 70 major cities rose 0.5% in February, slowing from a 0.6% gain in January and marked the lowest growth rate since April 2018, according to Reuters calculation of data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Friday.